La vampire nue AKA The Nude Vampire (1970)

director: Jean Rollin
release-year: 1970
genres: horror, sexploitation
countries: France
languages: French
fests: Sexploitation Horror Fest (2022)

A French sexploitation horror film that opens really promisingly, with excellent costumes, gorgeous sets, and quite tasteful nudity in the form of artsy dancing and abstract camera visuals. These things remain consistent throughout, which alone is enough to put this right at the top of the "sexploitation horror" genre, despite everything else.

Don't worry, the interest is quickly snuffed out by the excruciatingly slow progress of the story as the main character tries to figure out what his dad's mysterious business is. The dad is some sort of mafia dude with a pet vampire, some bondage slaves, and is renting a cottage to a suicide cult that has some of their members shoot themselves in the head every night. That sounds exciting on paper, but the pacing and delivery is just tragic. There is no musical soundtrack at all, which only seems to make it feel even slower.

For some reason they decided to use guns frequently, but they neither go "bang" nor produce any blood, resulting in some of the most unbelievable gunplay that I've ever seen in a movie. All of the violence is ridiculous, such as when the twin bondage slaves are both killed by one very slow-motion punch, if you could even call it that. More of a double-kill by light nudge.

It is presented as some sort of a horror mystery, but the mystery is mostly just explained in long, grueling conversations. Monologues, really, as nobody in this film knows how to converse. The main character does ask hilariously pointed questions, though. Perhaps all mystery stories would be less mysterious if people just asked questions as specifically as this guy.

In addition to the costumes -- did I mention how great they are? -- there is dramatic play with lighting, shadows, angles, and camera movements. One can easily imagine that the director and cinematographer wanted to be raking in awards at Cannes for avant-garde art pieces, but had neither the financial backing nor the skill, so they settled for tasteful low-budget smut instead. Who can blame them, really?

It has a shockingly good twist on the vampire story, insisting all along that it is not a vampire story at all, and ending on some quasi-philosophical questioning about who are really the vampires, the blood-suckers or the mafia men? And while the main vampire is literally nude once, one wonders if 'The Nude Vampire' title might refer to a more figurative meaning of 'nude', as the truth of vampirism itself is revealed and laid bare. Though maybe I'm giving it too much credit... maybe it's just referring to the tightly-cropped nipple shot in the very first scene.